Monday, January 01, 2018

Albelabhai shall try to give up tobacco

Albelabhai Saraniya contemplating if to give his promise to
 Mittal Patel
"Promise me you will quit taking tobacco!”

“You do so much for us, how will the poor like us ever repay!!

The moment Albelabhai Saraniyaa uttered these words, I brought my hand forward and asked for my reward. “Promise me you will give up your habit of tobacco!”

“This is very tough promise you have asked for! It is difficult to function without tobacco, I feel weak without it. Ben, I wouldn’t be able to give it up just like that!!”

“I will not listen to these reasons, you will need to give it up!”

“Promise me that you shall give it up,” I asked as I stood there with my hand stretched for a commitment from Albelabhai.

Albelabhai Saraniya barely touched Mittal Patel's hand
Albelabhai stood there, smirking and confused watching my hand that contemplating on what next.

“Why think so much, you will have to promise. I am not taking this hand back without a commitment from you!” I insisted.
The entire settlement that was watching us got confused. “He cannot leave the addiction so easily. It will make him sick!” they said in chorus.

Finally, after almost five minutes Albelabhai barely touched my hand “I cannot promise but, shall try,” he said.

After a fortnight, I called Meera, Albelabhai’s wife to inquire about his half-hearted promise. “Ben, good you took this promise.  I have tried so hard to make him give up but, he never listened. He hasn’t stopped yet but, am sure he will quit this time.” Meeraben spoke with a hearty laughter. “The moment he picks up tobacco packet he stares at it and mentions your name…” she continued speaking and laughing at the same time.

Strange are these warm relationships with these communities. We cannot rob people, we cannot fight like this, what will people say about Mittal’s relatives, your actions can embarrass me!! Such nudges and sweet threats do make an impact and I am enjoying these moments to the core! Pray to Almighty that I always find strength to serve them….

struggle to get the Bharthari community name updated on the official list of NT/DNT communities in Gujarat

Maniben Bharthari telling Mittalben about the flood
situation in 2015 in Banaskantha
“Ben, please do something to ensure our community’s name enters the official list…. Maheshbhai tried so hard to get us plots but, the officials simply refused by saying our community is not on the list of nomadic communities. But Ben, you were saying that we are on the list so how come the officials refused, why is our community still excluded?”

The Bharthari of Banaskantha, Patan and Mehsana survive under abject poverty. They earn their living by singing cradlesongs to the newborns, play the one string Ravan-hatta and make do with the alms they received.

The Banaskantha floods of 2015 were devastating for the homeless families like Bharthari who stayed in makeshift shanties in the banks of the village lake.

Recently, I happen to meet Maniben Bharthari, who had lost all her belongings to the floods. “There was no question of saving our belongings. We barely managed to save our Rationcards, Voter ID cards, raise our hands over the head and walk out of the flood waters. (she describes us how they managed to save their precious documents).

Maniben stays in a shanty and was dreaming of a house, the Bharthari have been included in the official list and they were to receive residential plots. Obtaining the plots would require caste certificate but, when the families reached the government office they found their community missing. The government has added this community to the list but the online update is yet to be happen. Hence, the applications were not accepted and the entire process once again got delayed…..

We have written to the government in this regard. Hopefully there is a solution soon….